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2006/03/29 Chicago
π 2006-03-29 23:06 by Merlin in Trips

Jen was going to see her sister and parents in Chicago for her nephew's birthday, and she nicely invited me so that I would have a chance to visit Chicago after she visited Paris. Contrary to expectations, I wasn't worried about a remake of a De Niro movie :)


Chicago by night, from the plane

After the birthday party itself, we used the next 3 days to go visit Chicago, and got reasonably lucky with the weather as it wasn't that good overall, but we got good visibility the when we climbed the Sears tower and also got a nice night view from the John Hancock tower

Here's the rundown:

Saturday: Nice Riverfront Walk and visit of a typical local Jazz Club: Green Mill





Sunday, after lunch and dealing with "fun" problems with United Airlines cancelling flights at the last minute for her parents, we went to visit the Pier before taking the Architectural Tour Cruise . Despite the arctic winds, it was quite enjoyable.













Monday was see lots of stuff day :) (basically going up the Sears Tower, Downtown Chicago , a Lunch at the world famous Gino's East Deep Pan Pizza, the Magnificent Mile, and to top it off, a very nice night view from the top of the John Hancock Tower, and a night view from the Planetarium).

















Tuesday, I was interested in seeing the Science Museum . Unfortunately, we got a late start, and it was "take all the school kids to the science museum" day apparently, so we were overrun by kids, and it took a really long time to get in. To top it off, they also thought it would be cute to close at 16:00.
Even if due to those two problems, we didn't get to see all of it, the museum was quite nice. The highlight for me was the original U-boat that had been captured during the second world war, and a reconstitution of that capture.
The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting Chinatown.





Wednesday was the last day, and we spent most of it at the John Shedd Aquarium , which I should say is probably the best one I've seen so far. While their dolphin show was actually the worst I had seen :), the living reef expo was very authentic and detailed (since I had already seen most of it in real life).
We finished the day by rollerblading up the waterfront to the pier, seeing a pathetic excuse for a 3d movie futuristic tour of Chicago, and flying back home, with The Big Blue , directors cut as a private moving showing in the plane.

I definitely had a great time, and owe much thanks to the hosts, and the tour guide :)













The Millenium Park

2006/03/25 Chicago John Shedd Aquarium
π 2006-03-25 00:00 in Aquariums
As part of our tour of Chicago, we spent a little of time in the John Shedd Aquariums, outside of the screaming kids, it wasn't bad :)


















See more images for Chicago John Shedd Aquarium
2006/03/19 Dodge Ridge
π 2006-03-19 22:07 by Merlin in Snow

The week flew by as usual.
Unfortunately, while the weekend, and especially saturday looked like a great snow day, but events conspired against me for not being able to go Saturday. Sunday, I went with a coworker to a new place I had never been to: Dodge Ridge . It was a somewhat smaller mountain, off hwy 108 but the slopes were still nice , and the snow, while being heavy powder, was challenging: my back leg got quite a workout :)





2006/03/11 Flying vs Sleep
π 2006-03-11 22:06 by Merlin in Flying

Current Music: AvB - ASOT 239 - Above & Beyond - Can't Sleep (sweet tune)
Current Mood: Bah...

Since I wasn't going to Tahoe this weekend, I scheduled a couple of flights. On one side I had already lost my currency in Skylanes (Cessna 182s), so I scheduled another flight with an instructor to regain my currency.
On the other side, I did another flight in a Cutlass (Cessna 172RG, i.e. retractable gear) in order to continue my work towards a complex rating (high performance and retractable gear).
We had a nice crosswind in the afternoon, which was nice for practise, but it also showed that my limited amount of alertness due to generally bad sleep definitely messed with my ability to "be on the ball" and respond quickly and accurately to changing winds and being blown off the runway.
It's a bit frustrating because I know that another 100 hours of training wouldn't help as much as having dependable sleep... I guess that's also supposed to be good news at the same time if I can fix the former.
2006/03/09 Google 5K
π 2006-03-09 22:34 by Merlin in Exercising

Actually, thanks to my GPS, I knew it was only 3.04 miles, which is a bit short of 5K.
Turns out, I actually didn't do well: 24mn, with an average 7:54 minute mile. I even got passed by 3 ladies! (and no, they weren't from Kenya :) )
I'm not that surprised though, we haven't done a lot of running in boot camp recently compared to the 4 boot camps I had a week, and the 4 laps minimum we'd do every day.
Anyway, I need to bring that down to 22mn so that I can be a little less shameful next time, and keep the women behind me :)
The only positive point was playing with my GPS watch, and graphing the results afterwards :)

2006/03/08 Bought 2 GPSes
π 2006-03-08 22:28 by Merlin in Exercising, Hiking

While I was sick, I used some of the time to learn to use the two GPS I had just bought.
The first one was a hand held GPS, primarily designed for hiking, but which can also be used for biking and other outdoor activities (moving color maps, with altimeter and electronic compass as a backup for GPS data).
The nice thing is that it also supports auto routing, provided you can buy the expensive maps, or get them somehow. It kind of bothered me to pay for those things again since I had already paid for a set for my car.
In the end, I was able to get some older maps to test the functionality, and see if I would really want it on a day to day basis with up to date maps. So far, it looks like even if it wouldn't be your best bet for a car GPS, compared to what's on the market, but it could act as one if you had nothing else (so it's kind of nice as a multi-purpose tool).
While it's nice on the road, or to mark a jump spot in the middle of a snowed in forest so that you can head back to it next time down, it's also nice to graph your course after the fact on a big map on your computer (or even import to Google Earth for some even nicer output)



The other is a Garmin Forerunner 301. It's basically a running/sports GPS with built in heart rate monitor. It's nice for a few reasons:

  • you can graph whatever course you ran after the fact (nice when you're off track)
  • no more do you need to ask "how far did I run/bike anyway"?
  • what was my running pace over point X, and overall?
  • how am I doing on this lap compared to last one?
  • how are my running pace and heart rate affected by my running up or down this path (although GPS derived altitude can be off by 10-50 feet easily)

While it does look like an ugly wart, and its GPS reception isn't stellar, nor is its pairing with its heart rate monitor, it's still quite nice. I am however planning on getting the nicer forerunner 305 when it comes out



I however need to state that Mapsource and in general Garmin windows software is totally pathetic. If you do anything it doesn't like, it will crash and never restart until you remove all the software and all the maps, and reinstall them all, which could take about an hour.
Also, it will install some maps on disk, some it will refuse to do so and keep asking for the CD (you need to hack that, but if you mess up, you reinstall everything), and if it gets any read error, it removes the map tile from what's available forever, and there again you need to reinstall everything.
Way to go Garmin!
This gave me a good opportunity to setup vmware (making all that windows crap work under linux) and snapshots so that I can make copies of all of windows and garmin software while it works, and revert to a working snapshot when it blows up instead of reinstalling everything.

Anyway, when all this crap works, you get nice stuff like this graph from my running at the google 5K today, showing heart rate and speed over time



or this for kirkwood:

2006/03/05 Weekend at Kirkwood
π 2006-03-05 23:07 by Merlin in Snow

While the weather was turning for the worse (i.e. good for snowboarding), I was wondering if I'd be able to go kirkwood due to having gotten sick.
In the end, I just decided to chance it, got up at the crack of dawn, and headed up with Jen thanks to my coworker Matt and his wife who were driving up there, and picked us up.
Unfortunately, despite the early departure, we got there quite late (on the slopes by 11:00), most of all the fresh powder was just gone. Yet, the conditions were still quite good

Day 2 was more dicy: very windy, but otherwise good snow conditions too.
We also got there quite late in the morning due to a small but miscommunication between me, half sleeping in the car, and the driver, whom I thought knew how to get to kirkwood (i.e. the same way we took the previous night, except the other way around), and he ended up going back on hwy 50, driving towards home for a good 45mn before I was awake enough to notice. Doh!
We eventually turned around and went back to kirkwood. That'll teach me not to pay attention, and assume anything.

All in all, a good weekend, I was healed by saturday morning, and got home without having hurt myself or even being sore :)
As usual, if you want to, you can look at the rest of the pictures from Kirkwood







yes, in some places you had powder past your knees




It can't be that hard now, can it? Other people manage to stop on the way down :)




Deep palisades, lots of work to get there, but it was nice


Nice to know what I had done that day (see GPS post)


Oh, the nice rotor cloud, just like it said in my mountain flying book


The second day had decent snow but bad weather


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